What Is A Pocket Square? The Origins And How To Rock One The Right Way

It’s humble, yet it can elevate your look in a flash. That’s the magic of the pocket square. What is a pocket square, and how can you rock one the right way? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.

What Is A Pocket Square?

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So, what is a pocket square, and how do you wear one? The many times overlooked pocket square is a piece of fabric that measures 10 inches by 10 inches to 17 inches by 17 inches that is folded and placed in the front pocket of a men’s suit. It is a men’s fashion accessory gaining popularity among well-dressed celebrities and athletes.

The Origins Of The Pocket Square

The pocket square can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Small linen cloths, dyed red, were worn to signal wealth and style.

The ancient Greeks were believed to carry a cloth that was dipped in perfume, so the person wearing it had something pleasant to smell.

Let’s not forget about the Romans who used a pocket squares-esque cloth to start Gladiator Games.

It wasn’t until the 1400s when handkerchiefs gained popularity in Europe and become a fashion statement for the upper class. The pocket squares were made of silk and had intricate patterns that let everyone know the person wearing it had class and money.

French nobles were known to scent their cloth to shield their noses from the stink of the common man.

The Pocket Square in Modern Times

While the lore of ancient times is interesting, you probably want to know what is a pocket square used for in modern times.

The 1800s brought about the appearance of the 3-piece suit. Men of a higher class did not want their handkerchief touching their coins, which were dirty. They moved the fabric to their breast pocket.

In the early 1900s, the pocket square was a fashion statement, folded and revered as Hollywood’s dapper popularized the look. The poor pocket square suffered a slump in the mid-1900s and to the turn of the century. This was partly because of the more casual work attire and the advent of Kleenex.

Since the early 2000s, pocket squares have had a renaissance in the fashion world.

What Is A Pocket Square Used For?

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As far as fashion goes, a pocket square is an accent to your suit. It doesn’t have to match your tie or shirt, but it should be a touch of personality. It is meant to complete the look the way a hat or fun pair of socks would. The pocket square can be wild and colorful. No one will see the entire square.

Pocket Squares VS Handkerchief – What’s The Difference?

What is a pocket square but a fancy handkerchief, right? Product descriptions will use the terms interchangeably. Talk about confusing. Here are the main differences.

Use

Pocket squares are for show, not to blow your nose. They are accessories along the same lines as jewelry. They express your style, and that’s about it. Besides, how messy would it be to wipe your nose with a silk cloth? It has no absorption whatsoever.

Hankies are usually made from cotton and are great at taking on snot patrol. They can also wipe sweat from your brow or wipe up a small spill.

Size

Pocket squares are smaller than handkerchiefs. The hanky goes into the pants pocket which is roomier than the breast pocket. You want it to be a good size to catch all of your sneezes.

Fabric

Pocket squares are not made from fabrics that are practical. Silk, wool, cotton, and linen are classic pocket square fabrics of choice. A rule of thumb is the lighter the fabric, the bigger the square needs to be, so your folds will stay in place. Who wants to wipe their nose in wool. Handkerchiefs are soft cotton and are comfortable.

Tips For Rocking The Pocket Square

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Before we get into folding the pocket square, there are some things you should keep in mind as you shop for them.

Size It Right

A pocket square has to fit your breast pocket. It shouldn’t bulge or spill out over the top of the pocket. The pocket square is a tease, and you only get to see a part of it. As we said, the material it’s made from will determine how big it should be.

Formal Wear Schmormal Wear

The pocket square, though thought of as a formal accessory, can be worn with a more casual look. It can add some pizazz to a blazer and jeans.

Or, you can skip the tie and wear the suit with the pocket square. Please don’t be a dork and get a pre-folded pocket square or one that’s folded and sewn together. It’s like getting a clip-on tie. Yuck.

Harmonize Don’t Match

Matching shows no imagination. The key to rocking the pocket square is to harmonize it with your shirt or tie. You can even go mismatch if you have the guts to veer into the avant-garde. If you are new to pocket squares (hey you are reading an article titled what is a pocket square), you may want to invest in a few white linen beauties until you get your bearings.

Steps to Mastering Pocket Square Harmony

Step 1: Wear the white pocket square. It’s the pearls of the pocket square world. It goes with anything and always looks good.

Step 2: Neutrals rule. Venture into the grays, creams, and browns. Keep your tie neutral if you are wearing one.

Step 3: Move to the monochromatic. This means pairing different shades of the same color. Red and deep pink or orange or tan and beige for example.

Step 4: Use warm colors or cool color schemes to punch up your outfit. Say green and blues or purple blues.

Step 5: Get ready to dive into complementary colors. That means they are the opposite on the color wheel. This is a bold step young man, so make sure you are ready to go for the bold. This is a helpful color wheel tool:

Folding A Pocket Square

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When folding a pocket square, don’t get all twisted. It’s not a paper crane, and you aren’t going to be arrested by the fashion police.

You have to act as though you just happened to place the pocket square in your pocket as an afterthought. No. Big. Deal.

Let’s go over three basic folds that will have you sporting that pocket square like a pro.

The Square (Presidential)

This pocket square fold, also called the presidential fold, is the quintessential pocket square fold. It’s the go-to fold for formal events. You should use a white linen or cotton pocket square. Here’s a good example of one from TieBar and how to create it.

  • Lay the pocket square flat
  • Fold the pocket square in half
  • Fold it up from the bottom to form a square
  • Fold lengthwise again so it is the same size as your pocket. 
  • Tuck the square into your jacket pocket with the edges up
  • To make it casual, use a pocket square with a colored hem

The One Point Fold Or Triangle Fold

This fold really makes a point, and it’s perfect for a cotton or linen pocket square. Add a punch of color to your suit.

  • Layout the pocket square so it is flat with a corner at the top (looks like a diamond, not a square)
  • Fold the pocket square in half lengthwise so the left corner meets the right corner
  • Rotate the triangle so the straight edge is along the bottom and the point is up
  • Fold the left point over about three-quarters of the way to meet the right point.
  • Fold the right point over and tuck in the point.
  • You should have a rectangle with a point at the top
  • Fit the pocket square into your pocket so the point is the only part visible

Puff Pocket Square Fold

This one is for all of you free spirits out there. It’s perfect for silk pocket squares and communicates an unconventional style.

  • Layout the pocket square so it’s flat
  • Pinch the pocket square in the center and lift it off of the surface.
  • The edges and corners should hang down
  • Form a circle with your thumb and first finger (make the ok sign)
  • Pull the pinched point of the pocket square through your finger circle about halfway
  • The pocket square should resemble a flower (lily)
  • With your other hand, fold the hanging edges or petals down so they meet the stem of the flower
  • This creates a puff. Continue to fold the edges until all of them are puffed
  • Adjust the pocket square so it fits in the pocket with just the puff visible. It’s ok if it looks a little free form

The Bottom Line

What is a pocket square? It’s a fashion statement that you should definitely consider making. It adds color to your suit and is that special something that will get you noticed. Consider wearing one for your next job interview, a special date, or just because you can. Just don’t confuse them for a handkerchief!

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